Richard Prince, Nurse Forrester's Secret, 2002–03, Photo: Joachim Fliegner

Olbricht Collection

The Essen-based endocrinologist and biochemist Thomas Olbricht is a committed and passionate collector of contemporary art. With its circa 1,700 works by artists from throughout the world, the Olbricht Collection is meanwhile one of the most noted collections of contemporary art. It is enjoying more and more renown both at home and abroad, above all among experts, what has ultimately led to prominent curators time and again approaching Thomas Olbricht with requests for loans for their exhibitions. Indeed, this collection not only provides an overview of current goings-on on the art scene, it also contains top-ranking works that have already attracted international interest as “exhibition highlights.”

In contrast to a collection classified according to “museal” or purely scholarly criteria, the Olbricht Collection contains distinct preferences, subjective assessments, but also surprising confrontations with and combinations of various artistic positions. As a rule, the works assembled by Thomas Olbricht are related, they enter into correspondences and proper dialogues with one another that demonstrate much more than what have in the meantime become prevalent references in terms of style or genre history. Olbricht collects, so to speak, according to “themes” and likes to proceed across genres as well as epochs.

A passionate collector, Thomas Olbricht focuses his interest above all on very recent art. What is striking is the large share, more than fifty percent, of art by women. And this dominance of female positions is reflected in the current keen international interest in approaches critical of representation. Questions concerning physical identities and identifiability are thematized here in in part unsettling images and self-portrayals.

View of the exhibition Go for it! with works from the Olbricht Collection
Anonym, Nino Jesús, 17. Jh., Photo: Joachim Fliegner

The professional reconstruction of a cabinet of curiosities is one of the most remarkable of the new accruals within the collection. This compendium, no doubt unique for a collector of contemporary art, of course allows making motif-related and thematic connections both to other works in the collection as well as to current discussions on the relationship between art and science. In 2008, with Go for it! Olbricht Collection (a sequel), the cabinet of curiosities was brought to Bremen in a new combination within the scope of a large-scale exhibition, where it entered a dialogue with works of contemporary art that was as exceptional as it was tension-filled.

The Olbricht Collection was presented to the Bremen public as early as in 2001 in the widely acclaimed exhibition Ohne Zögern: Die Sammlung Olbricht Teil 2. This was followed by repeated presentations of important individual loans as well as comprehensive exhibitions on individual aspects of the collection, among which were Aktuelle Malerei, Skulptur und Fotografie aus Dresden und Leipzig (2005) and Thomas Demand—Gregor Schneider (2006).

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